Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Irish Herbal Industry: forging a future

The Herb Room of the Aboca Museum, Sansepolcro

I am ready to commit plans to paper and scrutiny as I am on my way to meet Italian herbal producers to see what might be possible in Ireland regarding growing and harvesting our own native herbs for herbal medicines and ‘superfoods’. In Ireland we tread on valuable herbs and we mender alongside them on our daily walks. You may wonder what plants have such wonderful properties, and you will be surprised to learn that they include elderflowers, nettles, dandelion roots and leaves, hawthorn flowers and leaves and rosehips. Less obvious ones include agrimony, cramp bark and valerian.
When we think of medicinal herbs our mind’s eye immediately goes to chamomile, rosemary and lavender and we are not aware of our own hidden northern European heritage. These plants are part of our hidden heritage and they have a useful place in prosperity for our future.

Spices and herbs on display
I am exploring liaison with Mediterranean herb growers, and developing links with potential Irish farmers. It would be such a pleasure to travel rural Ireland and see fields of mallow and St John’s Wort and to see the hedgerows harvested and valued. This would play a part in biodiversity, rural sustainability and development and make connections between our love of the land and the bounty of crops to harvest. This industry will see us well into the future as part of agribusiness that does not depend on artificial fertilisers or herbicides because the plants are naturalised and many thrive on marginalised land. Plants often produce medicinal constituents as a result of adaptation to marginal soil conditions.

Looking to the future I hope that establishing an industry in herbal medicines will support education in herbal medicines. From an education centre for schools, to a blended learning (on-line and direct clinical training) course; from certificate level, to University degree level courses in clinical herbal medicine. Robust clinical training is key to the future of Herbal Medicine Physician training.
This is of key importance for herbal medicine practitioners because they diagnose illness and prescribe medicines.

This is a new departure and a new vision for the next ten years. It will be achieved with allies along the journey, agus le cúnamh Dé (and with the help of the Gods-and Goddess's of course).
I do not know where this journey will lead, who I will meet and how the future will come to meet me. It feels like a big task but one that will present with one or two projects to follow at a time. I will keep you posted.

Dr Dílis Clare
Watch this video of Aboca Herbs, Italy for awesome inspiration.

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